by Jennifer Barham
"I find television very educating. Every time somebody turns it on, I go into the other room and read a book."
– Groucho Marx
When asked to divulge his secret to success, Warren Buffett casually nodded his head toward a pile of books and international newspapers nearby and said, “Read 500 pages like this every day. That’s how knowledge works. It builds up, like compound interest.” Early in his career, Buffett read closer to 800 pages a day, and even now, he reads daily for about 8 hours.
Regardless of how much or how little free time he has ever had in his day, Buffett made reading a priority in his life. And he’s not the only one.
- In an interview with The New York Times, Bill Gates shared that he reads about 50 books a year (or about one a week, at least).
- Elon Musk, a well-known avid reader, taught himself physics and rocket science simply by reading, which he did up to 10 hours a day in his youth.
- Billionaire Mark Cuban is a fan of treating his businesses like the athletic games he loves so much, knowing the rules and plays and getting the competitive edge. He claims he does this by reading 3 or more hours a day.
- Worldwide, , the average CEO reads more than one book a week.
- 88% of rich, successful people dedicate about an hour a day reading self-improvement or self-education books.
People don’t read books merely “to learn stuff,” but instead they read books to gain knowledge AND to increase and enhance other aspects of becoming a well-rounded person. For example, a daily reading habit of 30 minutes or more (in addition to increasing knowledge in a particular area) helps:
- Exercise your brain, drastically increasing neuro-flexibility and brain function.
- Improve your focus, and not just in the area of reading. Studies show that overall focus improves with bursts of focused reading daily.
- Increase your memory. Prolonged reading – more than a social post or blog – requires concentration and the ability to track a story line or other information, which works the memory muscle.
- Develop your communication skills. Exposing the brain to 10 or 20 pages a day of published material, which definitely has varied vocabulary, phrasing, and sentence structure is a proven way for your brain to “match” real-life conversation with others.
- Rally your mental health. Studies show that blood pressure and heart rate lower and normalize, breathing becomes relaxed and regular, and happy hormones are released the more you dive into reading.
- Prolong your life. Granted, this one is probably just a culmination of the previous ones, but still – here’s to long life!
After announcing his whopping reading schedule, Buffett went on to say that anybody “can do it, but I guarantee not many will.” That’s because he knows that most people won’t prioritize this simple, easy, often free key to success. Now, some of us might not be able to read 8 hours a day, but I bet we could all significantly increase the amount we read. When I began prioritizing reading and started with a book a week, I chose to:
- Pick books instead of shows, movies, and social media. When I cut out tv and Netflix, etc. (except watching with the family), I was able to see what a time-suck that was. And since deleting my social accounts, I’m embarrassed about how much aimless time I spent there.
- Keep books all around – a book in the bathroom, a book by the bed, a book in the car, a book by a favorite chair in the living room. These don’t all have to be difficult War and Peace types of books. When I was in graduate school, my professor recommended we chomp through Emily Dickinson’s complete poems by putting it in the bathroom and reading one each time we went. I’ve kept poetry books and short inspirational story books in my bathrooms ever since!
- Remember audio books! Audiobooks are a game changer because you can actually multi-task your commute, your daily walk, your flight, or anytime.
- Start collecting must-read books and loading them onto a Kindle, iPad, phone, or other device. I always keep a variety of books and other reading material loaded onto my devices so that no matter where I am, I have SOMETHING I can read.
- Read a variety. I always have a fiction book, a non-fiction book, a “deep” book of some sort, and an old biography going. Some are light, and some are heavy. Some can be read quickly and finished, some take many months to finish. Some are more entertaining than others, some more contemplative, some more agitating, some more difficult.
- Set a goal: I took the number of pages/chapters and divided it by the number of days I wanted to have it read in and read that number a day! Easy! Even if I don’t reach the goal every single day, I come closer because I have a goal in writing.
- Stop reading a bad book. That’s right. If I was several chapters into a book that I was dreading, hating, or not getting anything out of, I gave myself the freedom to stop reading it. I just immediately picked up another book I wanted to start, and carried on.
So, what to read?! If you’re just diving into the reading-for-business-success world, I recommend the following bestsellers (and for good reason!) which are focused on personal growth and development, and improving people skills and social savvy.
- Think and Grow Rich, Napoleon Hill. Backed with research from studying over 500 people for more than 20 years, Hill’s book is a curation of the 13 most common habits of wealthy and successful people.
- The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen R. Covey. The absolute gold mine of a book from whence we get the truism, “The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.”
- How to Win Friends and Influence People, Dale Carnegie. A true classic. Carnegie’s little book helps you become likeable, handle your relationships better, and influence others without being aggressive.
- Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff . . . and It’s All Small Stuff, Richard Carlson (keep this one in your bathroom. It’s a compilation of a bunch of short vignettes. Also, any of the Chicken Soup for the Soul books contain short, inspirational reads.)
- Who Moved My Cheese? Spencer Johnson The classic fable which asks the age-old question, “What would you do if you weren’t afraid?”
- The Power of Positive Thinking, Norman Vincent Peale. Packed with practical advice, this book is a discourse on believing in yourself, taking control of your life, and discovering the roots of success within you.
So, set a goal to read a few good books this year or this month. After all, Mark Twain was on to something when he said, “The man who does not read good books has no advantage over the man who can’t read them.
Photo by Road Trip with Raj